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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Constructor: Zhouqin Burnikel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: IT'S A TRAP (66A: Warning to the answers to the three starred clues regarding the word hidden in 17-, 34- and 43-Across) — Across answers all have the letter string "TRAP" buried in them, and then crossing each "TRAP" is a thing that can be trapped. So the BEAR (!?), the TOURIST, and the RAT are all caught (so to speak) in TRAPs.

Theme answers:
  • ATRA PLUS (crossing BEAR)
  • BEST RAP ALBUM (crossing RAT)
Word of the Day: TCI (55A: Cable co. acquired by AT&T in 1999) —
Tele-Communications, Inc. or TCI was a cable television provider in the United States, for much of its history controlled by Bob Magness and John Malone.
The company came into being in 1968, following the merger of Western Microwave, Inc. and Community Television, Inc. It was the largest cable operator in the United States at one time.
After going public in 1970, the company grew rapidly, and became the top cable provider in the United States. After a failed merger attempt with Bell Atlantic in 1994, it was purchased in 1999 by AT&T, whose cable television assets were later acquired by Charter Communications and then Comcast Corporation. (wikipedia)
• • •

When I finished this, I had no idea what the theme was, and my main feeling was one of minor annoyance at having to chase down an error, which turned to major annoyance when I discovered the error was (unsurprisingly) in a very ugly little corner of the grid—I've never heard of TCI.  Wikipedia says "It was the largest cable operator in the United States at one time," but those three letters mean nothing to me in that order. I had cable in CA. I had cable in MI. It never came from TCI. I have never heard of TCI (actually, I've probably said these very words before, and will likely say them again, since constructors tend to think that if something's been used in the past it's OK to use it now, 16-years-defunct or no). So I had MCI at 55A: Cable co. acquired by AT&T in 1999, even though I know they were telecom, not cable. MCI simply had the virtue of being massively familiar. And RAM was a word—just not the word the clue wanted (RAT). Really puts a damper on joy when you a. make an error, and b. have never heard of the right answer. But the more I examined the theme (I honestly never saw the revealer clue while solving), the more I appreciated its complexity.

It's perhaps a bit too complex. That is, it's trying to do a lot, and there's a bit of absurdity involved. Is a rat really going to listen to the "warning" "IT'S A TRAP!" A BEAR? The TOURIST, sure, she'll listen. But the conceit of "shout a warning in English at an animal that is not your dog" seems … mildly strained. Also, the revealer is a "warning," but the animals and tourist are (already?) "trapped," i.e. crossing the letters "TRAP." So your "warning" is useless. Never had a chance. What is a BEAR trap? Sounds horrific. Is it that spring-loaded maiming metal claw thing? Yeah, horrific. But there's a real attempt at craftsmanship here that I admire. Fill is subpar in far too many places, but it's a pretty complex theme, with a decent amount of wide open space to fill, so perhaps the list of junk (TCI, USRDA, ITAL ARR, ACS, EIS *and* EIN, SSR, OLD LATIN, and MAWR) is not long enough to warrant much censure given the theme demands. Nice stretching of TRAP across two words each time.  I'm also a big fan of the juxtaposition of MWAH and PENELOPE, for entirely personal reasons.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    NYer 12:07 AM  

    I can't access the Wednesday puzzle on AcrossLite. Anyone else have the same problem?

    Steve J 12:15 AM  

    An entirely too convoluted theme. I had to read the revealer three times to process what it was trying to communicate. And, from the notes at Xword info, this revealer is allegedly clearer than the original. I shudder to think of what kind of verbal spaghetti that was.

    Nice getting the trapped subjects to intersect the trap hidden in each accross answer, but it's still a theme that's messier than I'd like.

    Nothing else stood out in this one. Felt mechanical to fill. And it was remarkably easy. Finished this in nearly average Monday time.

    wreck 12:20 AM  

    78 degrees, cigar on the patio, baseball, and the crossword - I'm not gonna complain about anything!!
    Enjoyed the experience!

    Kris in ABCA 12:35 AM  

    I had to check - apparently a goat trap is a thing.

    John Child 12:40 AM  

    The hardest Monday puzzle of the week so far, but minutes below my normal Wednesday time. Cute and easy, but I hope the difficulty ratchets up tomorrow.

    John Child 12:40 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    jae 12:43 AM  

    Easy Wed. for me too.   Don't think this one will stimulate the sort of discussion yesterday's did.  There are quite a few animals...BEAR, RAT, ASS, GOAT, EEL, ESCARGOT, WEASEL, LAMOTTA...and the theme has a clever twist..., but nothing really jumps out at me.  According to Xwordinfo, Zhouqin  submitted this in 2013.  Her more recent stuff in the LAT is a bit more fun.  A mild liked it.

    Anonymous 1:07 AM  

    I kinda liked it. I'm from a Northern Tier state, so I've heard of a BEAR TRAP. Yes, they are nasty and very dangerous for bear and trapper alike. Also never heard of TCI. The HOP ON/HOP IN difference was my error.


    James Schalkwyk 1:17 AM  

    Can anyone explain the SSR clue? What is a geog. 15?

    Anonymous 1:24 AM  

    SSR is/was a geographical entity. There were at one time 15 Soviet Socialist Republics.

    chefwen 1:30 AM  

    @NYer, I had difficulties also, kept gettin weird stuff, turned out, all I had to was to log in, something I never had to do before.

    Thought the puzzle was just an easy Wednesday until I came here and BEAR/TOURIST/RAT connection was spelled out. A new appreciation was brought to light.. DOH,

    Good one C.C. You are on a roll!

    mathguy 1:52 AM  

    I thought that the theme was a mess. Things are caught in a trap, traps aren't caught in things. Bears and rats aren't caught in traps the same way that tourists are. The revealer at 66A shouldn't contain the word TRAP. We should have had to notice it in the three long acrosses. RAT, BEAR, and TOURIST aren't in a trap, they intersect a trap.

    I expected Rex to rip this one apart. His criticism was much too mild.

    tk. 2:08 AM  

    Yeah, TCI was what got me, too-- I had HOP ON, not IN, because TCO looks just as valid for something I've never heard of.

    Christian Mojallali 2:27 AM  

    Dude, how do you not know what a bear trap is?

    Thomaso808 2:45 AM  

    MWAH on Monday and mo' MWAH today? Got to be a WS thing, holding this one since 2013 until another MWAH came along. With a MAWR to boot!

    Easy for Wed but I guess I'm in the minority so far because I liked the theme. The reveal clue was awkward, but I did not see the theme until I got to the reveal, so it did its job. The EEL missed the trap and so did the WEASEL. GOAT crosses TRAP but gets no mention. There's a TRAP for PENELOPE, but let's not go there.

    Rex complained too much about RAT / TCI. The clue about "Mob hit victim" clearly has to be RAT. TCI was pretty obscure, but RAT was an easy cross.

    Loren Muse Smith 3:29 AM  

    This played like a Wednesday for me, and once I saw the reveal, I revisited BEAR, TOURIST, and RAT (which I had drawn lines around because sometimes I just need training wheels) and the trick was easy to see (and pretty literal, right?) - "No! Don't get caught in that TRAP!" I agree with Rex on the image BEAR TRAP evokes, but I would tweak his description to "maiming metal maw." Ghastly. Are those things still legal?

    Hah! I didn't know (or had forgotten) that there was such a thing as OLD LATIN. It's always a poser to me that I carus notus one whitus about historical linguistics. Well, ok – maybe every now and then I get a kick out of seeing some kind of nifty change or shift. In fact? In Old English? When people cooked? They wore a napron… But alternative parsing is a whole nother story.

    I kept going back and looking at ACCEDE and wondering about "concede."

    Did anyone else picture those Bryn women running around at a reunion giving everyone the ole MAWR MWAH?

    I'm with those who didn't know TCI; I actually had a dnf because I forgot to go back and commit to HOP "on" or HOP "in." All in all, though, I liked it, especially the WEASEL/ASS cross and imagining the LAMOTTA SONATA wafting out of an ORCHESTRA PIT.

    GILL I. 4:23 AM  

    EEL, ESL, ELI, ERG, ETE, ESC, EIS, EIN...The E's win the BEST three letter E of the year ALBUM.
    @Ellen S will be thrilled to see EEL.
    ICARUS is kinda neat...He's fun to draw when you're bored.
    OK you smart English major type people (including the grammar Nazi)...
    Is there some kind of rule that one can learn regarding how to end a word in an EL or an LE? WEASEL gave me a hard time because I wasn't sure how it ended. The same happens with EASEL or is it EASLE? I never remember.
    Thank you.

    Anonymous 5:02 AM  

    I actually enjoyed the theme -- the reveal evoked Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars.

    Hardest clue for me was ATRAPLUS -- guessed xTRAPLUS at first. I guess I just don't buy enough razors! I had TCI from crosses; wasn't sure if it was right until the end.

    mac 5:29 AM  

    This must be the very first time I disliked a puzzle more than Rex did.

    In hindsight, the theme is clever, but it was no fun to solve. What really bothered me was the ACS, TCI, NSA, CDC, ESL. ERG, USRDA, SEP, ARR, LSAT, ESC and ITAL. High time constructors were given a cap on that sort of answers.

    This simply didn't seem a Wednesday NYT quality puzzle.

    smalltowndoc 6:20 AM  

    Thought the theme was sorta clever, but @Rex has a valid point that the recipients of the warning are already trapped. Nevertheless, I had no problem understanding the revealer. In fact, it aided me in filling in the theme answers pretty quickly. As others pointed out, MWAH again? Also, got TCI from RAT. SSR is more geopolitical than it is geographic, if you think about it. Wonder if WIll considered an alternate clue for 32 Across. Depends if he reads this blog regularly I guess. Just sayin'.

    Z 6:40 AM  

    I went to Bryn MAWR once, the summer, of '83. It was a July afternoon, the stone chapel wasn't air conditioned, and we were wearing wool tuxedos. The shirt I was wearing was more starch than fabric. By the "I do's" it was more sweat than fabric. My only other memory of that weekend was of the very drunk groom-to-be going on and on about being neither drunk nor tired nor nervous at 4:00 a.m. as we poured him into bed.

    Rug Crazy 7:16 AM  

    Had TCO - Hops On worked for me

    backwards week 7:23 AM  

    We're having a bizarro week--the puzzles are getting easier each day. Now I have nothing to do for the rest of the day.

    JTHurst 7:26 AM  

    Question: How did Rex discover it is an error that it is really TCI and not TCO? When you type an answer in an electronic puzzle does it tell you the answer is incorrect?

    For those of us doing the puzzle the old fashioned way with pen and newspaper puzzle we enter our best solution and if it is incorrect then we score a big DNF. Hops on or in was a tossup.

    I can hardly wait to go to my favourite sushi bar and tell Mr. Nakamura, "Hey Homeboy, I would like some eel sushi please." He would ignore me. Then I would have to say, " Nakamura - san, unagi nigiri kudesai."

    Anonymous 7:26 AM  

    Sometimes when there's a sea turtle in the Pacific, ORCHES TRAP IT.

    Danp 7:27 AM  

    Glad to see the EEl, the WEASEL and the SNAIL escaped the traps, but the GOAT's a goner, too.

    NCA President 7:42 AM  

    No need to point out the return of the MWAH since so many have already done it. I can't even pretend to be an xword puzzle editor, nor can I imagine what all goes into it, but somewhere along the line a little red flag would pop up at the very near repetition of such a unique word...that isn't even really a word at all but more of an onomatopoeia.

    I went to elementary school with a kid named Bryn Mawr. Imagine my surprise when I found out they named a university after him. I don't know how the university is pronounced, but his name sounded like "Brian" and last name rhymed with "flower."

    I, too, would have liked the revealer clue to not have the word TRAP in it. Something like "Watch out!" would have bumped the puzzle up from Monday to Wednesday, IMO.

    MWAH to all of you.

    Rex Porker 7:45 AM  

    Today I had a DNF. It is the first time I have ever admitted to a DNF on this blog. But rather than admit I had a DNF, I will discuss how MCI is a thing I have heard of but TCI is not. Even though that means I had "ram" instead of RAT, which somehow I thought was an Ok answer to "mob hit victim," I will still blame the puzzle for having an obscure answer. Because my DNF can clearly not be due to a lack of intelligence, attentiveness, or knowledge on my part, but is obviously a flaw of the puzzle. In addition, what is really bizarre is that I'll question whether I've ever heard of a "bear trap," as if that's some rare obscurity along the lines of FOVEA or CADABA or THEDA.
    Overall, I liked this puzzle, I liked the theme, I hated this puzzle, and I thought the theme was weak because it doesn't make sense, I will point out the horrible fill, but for reasons unknown I forgive the horrible fill (even though it's about the same amount as puzzles that I absolutely pan for their horrible fill), and, most importantly, I DNF.

    Anonymous 7:46 AM  

    EEL WEASEL--wasn't he the author who wrote "Night?"

    joho 7:53 AM  

    Like @Jae I listed all of animals: BEAR, EEL, ESCARGOT, WEASEL, ASS, GOAT and RAm (Hi, Rex!) The dog WAGGED it's tail and the rabbit HOPSINto the grid. That's a lot of animals, not enough TRAPs!

    As Rex said the theme is complex and most definitely innovative but I think it gets a bit caught up in its own TRAP of three letter words. ETE SEP EIS LAO. NSA TCI ARR COE.

    In the end I liked it more than I didn't and I always look forward to C.C.'s puzzles.

    Casco Kid 7:55 AM  

    RAT/TCo/HOPSoN here. The 5 minutes stabbing around mCI/HOPSIN. Then I just quit. Ridiculous puzzle.

    How are ACS carrier units? Cooling units, yes, but carrier units? That's nonsensical here.

    Fun theme, but unsolvable puzzle. Terrible experience.

    Anonymous 7:56 AM  

    Maybe one of the classical music nerds can find us an OLDLATIN SONATA today?

    Anonymous 7:58 AM  

    @ Casco 0755: Carrier is a company that makes air condtioning (AC) units.

    chefbea 8:06 AM  

    What a fun puzzle..I liked it!!! However I too had TCO and hops on.

    Think I read recently that Bryn Mawr Has closed or will be closing at the end of this school year.

    Anonymous 8:13 AM  

    Bryn Mawr is most definitely not closing. The owls will hoot on!

    Billy C 8:15 AM  

    Before the quick-release safety bindings on downhill skis, (circa '50s, I think) there were bindings that were slangily called "bear traps."

    They caused many a leg injury.

    DShawMaine 8:15 AM  

    Liked it, got dnf'ed by the TCI/HOPSIN crossing (as opposed to MCI, had TCO). It's always fun and surprising to me when Rex and other commenters get hung up on the same clues I do - seems a measure of progress somehow. I agree that this was a medium Tuesday, but easy Weds.
    Sadly (IMHO), bear traps are still legal here in Maine - we had a referendum last fall to outlaw them but it failed to pass. The "pro-bear baiters" ran ads of bears roaming residential areas.

    AliasZ 8:19 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    AliasZ 8:22 AM  

    Has anyone been to Mahwah, NJ? Not much to see there... no Bryn MAWR ladies throwing MWAHs atcha.

    "Joins for a ride" was a clever misdirection. If you immediately thought of motorcycles, you were in trouble. I thought car. The problem is, no one ever heard of TCI -- surely the trouble spot today.

    Despite having so much crosswordese in this one, I didn't much notice them while solving, certainly nothing as egregious as RESEE. It went down easier than Monday's and Tuesday's -- so far a very odd week. I am looking forward to a robust rebussed Thursday.

    Themes come and themes go, so I appreciated the little complication of having BEAR, PENELOPE and HOPSIN caught IN one rather than barely touching it with just one whisker of a RAT and one toe of a TOURIST.

    It pleased Darius to appoint 120 SATRAPs to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The SATRAPs were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. - Daniel 6:1-2.

    This from M-W(AH):

    1: the governor of a province in ancient Persia
    2a: ruler
    2b: a subordinate official: henchman.

    In other words, a SATRAP is a surrogate of a greater power. Thus, the IT SATRAP is the guy with the plumber's crack who gets down on is hands and knees and tries to make sense of the RAT's nest behind computers, on the order of the ITK (Information Technology King).

    PENELOPE is the faithful wife of Odysseus who resists her suitors during his long absence and is eventually reunited with him. Nothing could more perfectly represent their passionate reunion than the beautiful finale of the opera PÉNÉLOPE (1913) by Gabriel Fauré. Also, a perfect way to (ORCHEST)RAPIT up.

    Anonymous 8:25 AM  

    I love that the goat is going down, like these fainting goats:

    jberg 8:30 AM  

    @chefbea, I think you are thinking of
    Sweet Briar (or maybe it's Sweetbriar), a bit further South.

    Until I read @Rex, I hadn't noticed that the themed animals were all crossing the TRAPs. Neat, but then that GOAT is a flaw. Still, I do like the intricacy.

    And, in my perverse way, I like crossing EEL with ELI and ESL, and having the ORE/ERA cross right in the center. The latter was probably inevitable, needing as it did to slide a word in between the two themers.

    And I really liked the classical figures PENELOPE and ICARUS lined up-- and next to OLD LATIN, even though they both spoke Greek. (Is there a New Latin, by the way? Is that what they speak in the Vatican?)

    As for the difficulty level, I'm not sure -- I found it easy, but it took me longer than usual, I think because so often you only filled in 3 letters and then had to look at another clue.

    pfb 8:44 AM  

    I also originally had HOPSON and no idea what TCI is.

    Anonymous 8:45 AM  

    RAM/MCI/HOPSIN is just a stupid mistake. RAM could not possibly have been the correct answer to the clue. Man up, Rex, and stop whining and blaming the puzzle for your own inattention. "MCI simply had the virtue of being massively familiar"? What a lame explanation for a patently wrong move on your part. JFK is also a"massively familiar" three letter combination but that doesn't make it a plausible answer. Sheesh...what a sniveller!

    RAT/TCO/HOPSON strikes me as an entirely forgivable slip.

    I liked this theme and its execution. Bear trap, rat trap, tourist trap -- all three are real things. I might very well identify any one of them by saying "It's a trap!"

    Aketi 8:48 AM  

    Forget about the BEAR in a TRAP, I'm traumatized by the return of SNAILS/ESCARGOT. I will never get over the premature demise of my ESCARGOT (mbembe) TRAPped in the open weave basket and the slimey mess that ensued. I swear I dutifully put them out in the grass every day to feed them according to the instructions of the market mamas.

    Plus the clue for CDC brought back memories of the graphic descriptions in the book the Hot Zone which I actually read while traveling in West Africa. Not a good idea!

    Aketi is a mere 381 miles from Gemena, the site of the 1976 Ebola outbreak. There was a rumor that a Peace Corps volunteer was yanked out of his post the year before I arrived by the CDC guys in moon suits without even allowing the volunteer to gather his belongings. We gave that story about the same credibility as the rumor about the volunteer who spontaneously combusted or the volunteer who was eaten by a crocodile wooed to the river by Mami Wata. Nevertheless, CDC did report a case of Ebola that year, so who knows? It might have been true.

    George Barany 8:54 AM  

    Having read with much interest and occasional laughter @Rex and the previous commentators, I can think of little original to add, other than to congratulate my friend @Zhouqin Burnikel for her "Daily Double"--she (as @C.C. Burnikel) co-constructed today's Los Angeles Times puzzle, which has a very timely theme. MWAH!

    Roo Monster 9:17 AM  

    Hey All !
    I always like to pronounce "envelope" like PENELOPE. Another quirky English-ation. Try it. En-vel-o-pee. Or made the name should be Pen-a-lope!

    The puz was neat. Liked how the extra down themers actually crossed tha word TRAP. Unusual grid design, also. Seems WS is holding onto puzs for a long time. Wonder what the criteria is on holding onto puzs? Interesting...

    I also wonder if CC has given up on NYT puzmissions, as she seems to be in the LAT more. Inquiring minds snd all that.

    53D, Darjeeling server, that name always sounds like a country somewhere in the middle east! Was looking for serf or some such.

    Wanted WAGGle at first! I see the POSER is also in the TRAP. Good. ARR missed clue: Pirates most common consonant?


    Nancy 9:24 AM  

    I came here for the "two MWAHs in one week" comments and I wasn't disappointed. Love to you all. MWAH! As for the puzzle, it was the third in a row that bored me to death and that I didn't bother to finish. Like John Child, I'm hoping that tomorrow, Thursday, will bring some challenge and sparkle.

    I used to come to this blog because I was puzzled by or delighted by that day's puzzle. Now I force myself to at least begin even the most dreary puzzle, just so I can come to this blog. Interesting, n'est-pas?

    For example, yesterday I came here late, having not done the puzzle, and found some interesting comments on Herb Caen from @Whirred, @mathguy and other Californians. I included some memories of my own of Caen in yesterday's blog around 9:30 p.m., if anyone's interested.

    See you tomorrow. MWAH again.

    Anonymous 9:30 AM  

    When I play my guitar I love to use the MWAH MWAH pedal, so I can blow the audience a kiss.

    dk 9:31 AM  

    🌕🌕 (2 mOOns)

    Nice hill or as we know it BRYN MAWR. Also a Minneapolis neighborhood where I once wrote edge of your seat articles on glacial moraines and other geographic oddities that lay under our feet.

    I am of the HOPSon crowd. The rest of the puzzle was just fine. How can one not like a puzzle within which you find a WEASEL, GOAT and RAT?

    Bears are waking up here in Western WI. Neighbor awoke to find the 30 pound bag of cat food she left out rent asunder and empty. When she opined "how could that happen" I explained "bears can read." I am always amazed what some will believe -- wait I see one doing the NYT x-word now!

    wordie 9:33 AM  

    I thought the theme and revealer was just fine. I got the revealer off of ATRAPLUS (17A), the notion of a warning, and ,__S_TRAP (66A). The answers to the three starred clues are each associated with the word trap in common phrases/concepts. Goats may be trapped but it's nothing I ever heard of, maybe in a corral, but not in a trap. I thought it very clever, a little too easy for a Wednesday, but solid. As others have said, there were a lot if three letter answers, but I didn't notice it much. My main problem is never remembering how to spell MAWR, I always spell it Mahr, and had trouble understanding hEASEL for 22D. But I eventually fixed it and didn't DNF. I am surprised more folks didn't like it more. Great puzzle!

    quilter1 9:43 AM  

    Shoot! Thought this was very easy then checked the blog and found that I erred in HOPping oN.

    pmdm 9:49 AM  

    Mathguy, I understand your point. But perhaps people have misidentified the theme. As I was solving, I thought the theme was "words that can be followed by the word 'trap'" arranged so that the word "trap" actually intersects with the three words.

    AliasZ, apparently you are not a hiker. The NY-NJ [Appalachian] Trail Conference recently moved into a recently renovated new home (pictured here" which is a very nice place to visit. if you're interested in hiking. Sure, there isn't much else in Mahwah, but the town is a great place to use as a starting point for some great hikes with great viewpoints.

    pmdm 9:51 AM  

    Ah, wordie, we were typing in our thoughts about the theme concurrently.

    Anonymous 9:58 AM  

    Carrier is the name of an AC company.

    David Epstein 10:01 AM  

    I also got stuck trying to chase down my error at the RAM/MCI intersection. other than that, I thought this puzzle was super simple and I flew through it like a Monday or Tuesday time

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:05 AM  

    Good puzzle, but . . .

    Again I seem to have had my own unique mix-up: At the cross of the unknown TCI and the ambiguous HOP IN/HOP ON, I stewed over the I/O, but guessed correctly. But I incorrectly had 45 D as ACEEDES, and never noticed! TEI looked as good as anything, and, yes, on paper no one tells you you have a stupid mistake!

    Anonymous 10:07 AM  

    I don't believe ESL is a subj. for a citizenship applicant. I hope it isn't.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:09 AM  

    BTW, @Nancy et al., sign-up is now open for Lollapuzzoola 8, August 8, 2015, in Manhattan.

    chefbea 10:10 AM  

    @JBerg..Yes it was Sweet Briar I was thinking of

    Ludyjynn 10:10 AM  

    While traveling as a TOURIST from Florence to Pisa, Italy, my friend and I sat in a train compartment along with an Italian seminary student. I TRIED to converse with the friendly young man. I asked if he spoke English. He said, "no". I asked if he spoke French. He said, "no". He asked if I spoke Italian. I said, "no". Finally, I took out a pen and piece of paper and wrote on it, "loquerisne linguam LATINam"?
    Whereupon we conducted an entire conversation in OLD LATIN on paper. I knew my former high school Latin teacher, Mrs. Alldian, would get a charge out of this encounter. So I sent her a postcard from Pisa telling the story and confirming her belief that Latin is NOT a dead language!
    Two years later, traveling on the train into NYC, I ran into the younger sister of an old friend who gave me a lot of grief over that postcard. She told me that Mrs. Alldian would proudly show it to all of her classes each term and then post it on the wall to display it prominently. Although I never saw my teacher again before she retired, I am grateful to have made her so happy by my small gesture of appreciation. BTW, back then, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was open for ascension to the top, despite tilting somewhat precariously, Since then, millions have been spent to correct the problem, with varying degrees of success. Not sure if you can still climb up, but it was worth the trek. Definitely not a tourist TRAP.

    Hand up for enjoying this puzz. theme. Unlike Rex, did not get snared in the TCI trap, I'm happy to report. A bit of sour grapes on his part?

    Thanks, ZB and WS. A big MWAH from me to you.

    Hartley70 10:16 AM  

    I'm with you @Wordie. I liked this Wednesday much more than usual. I thought the construction was clever as can be and I was smiling through my 1am insomnia.

    Before this week, however, there was only one word I truly disliked in the English language and that was "wicked", used to describe any other word but "witch". I want to rip the LLBean catalogue to shreds when I see it feature "Wicked Good" anything! Three days into this week, however, I'm adding MWAH to my detestation file. I could tolerate it as an acronym I suppose and limit it to texts, but what idiot coined this and how do I get in touch with them? He/She needs a piece of my mind. There's nothing like a good rant when one hasn't had enough sleep.

    Paul McCartney 10:19 AM  

    I also left in the RAm/mCI mistake.
    Felt foolishly secure enough with mCI so never bothered to look that RAm did not make sense.

    My Baa-d...

    OldCarFudd 10:26 AM  

    Billy C is right that old downhill ski bindings were called bear traps, and were dangerous. But many modern cross-country skiers use a binding made by Rottefella. They were invented in 1927 by a Norwegian named Bror With. Legend has it that With used them in winning a race observed by the King of Norway, an enthusiastic skier. When the king presented the medal for winning the race, he asked With what kind of bindings those were. With, embarrassed, told the king: "These? They're just some old rat traps I put together." The king asked: "Could you put together a set for me?" And so the Rootefella company was born. Rottefella means rat trap in Norwegian.

    Anonymous 10:30 AM  

    I once hiked the Appalachian trail. Ran into Mark Sanford.

    Masked and Anonymo4Us 10:33 AM  

    Let me be the very first here to point out that they shoulda warned that poor GOAT, and WEASEL. (It's an orchestra!)
    Puzs are so funny.


    old timer 10:36 AM  

    I made the mistake of timing myself on this puzzle, and in an unbelievably short period, the whole thing was filled in. With, of course, RAm instead of RAT, though I could not figure out why the Mob would want to rub out a ram.

    If I had not been timing myself, I think I would have thought more about the revealer and realized there are TOURIST traps and BEAR traps, but no ram traps. Definitely RAT traps, though, available at your local hardware store.

    (Yes, I never heard of TCI either, but I liked the puzzle for the most part.)

    Arlene 10:45 AM  

    How fascinating - such a diverse group, yet discussing RAM/RAT vs. MCI/TCI. And delighting over the second MWAH of the week.
    Just for the record, I loved putting in MWAH instantly (showing that my brain does pay attention and learn.) And I figured that I knew MCI, and RAM must be some slang I didn't know.
    Sounded good to me, and that's what counts here!

    Slow Motion 10:54 AM  

    Why is the W in the "Frozen Wasser" clue capitalized? Isn't it just the German word for water?

    Nancy 11:00 AM  

    More about MWAH. It DOES have a derivation! It's the air kiss that Dinah Shore blew at the end of her "See the U.S.A. in your
    Chevrolet" ad. And at the end of her show, when she sang a couple of bars and blew her final kiss, she actually said MWAH. At least I THINK she did. Am I the only one old enough to remember this? Someone please tell me I'm not:)

    Steve J 11:11 AM  

    @Slow Motion: In German, all nouns are capitalized.

    Regarding TCI: I'm a little surprised that it was so widely unknown. They were one of the two largest cable companies through the '90s, and they were a primary target of legislation passed by Congress in the mid '90s to regulate cable TV rates. The name's been defunct for 15 years (about as long as since ATRA was one of Gilette's major brands), but it was a big name back in the day.

    Andrew Heinegg 11:31 AM  

    But the clue for goat is not starred so it was never intended to be part of the it's a trap group.

    Andrew Heinegg 11:34 AM  

    But the clue for goat is not starred so it was never intended to be part of the it's a trap group.

    GILL I. 11:37 AM  

    @Nancy...Yes, it was Dinah. I used to watch her show with my grandmother and she would MWAH at the end. Of course I was only about 2 then so I may not remember ;>)
    I just finished Nichols & C.C.'s LATimes crossword. It's a LOT funner than today's.
    So, I guess no one can help me with any info on any rule for the EL/LE endings? Do you just have to memorize the spelling or is there a specific reason for both of them sounding the same but spelled differently...?

    Lewis 11:48 AM  

    I liked the downcast SLUMP and the up TEMPO.

    It felt too easy for a Wednesday. I liked the clue for ITAL, but otherwise nothing terribly tricky, and tricky would have helped. On the down side is the ugly fill (Rex, I don't ever remember you giving so much ugly fill -- and you gave ten examples -- such a pass); on the upside is the clever theme.

    My brain is happy for the solve, and thank you ZB for that, but overall, a mixed bag.

    Nancy 12:03 PM  

    @GILL -- Thanks for remembering Dinah MWAHing, even if you were only 2. Re: LE vs EL. I went to my handy-dandy Concise Oxford English Dictionary from the 1550s, which one of our high school English teachers insisted all her students possess. (She was a Brit and scary as all get out). The OED did explain the difference, but their explanation was as clear as mud. But rather than trying to memorize, I'd suggest, that if you read a lot, your eye should tell you if the spelling is right or wrong. Try it one way: if it looks wrong, it's wrong, so write it the other way. EASLE must look wrong to you, doesn't it?

    Hartley70 12:05 PM  

    @Nancy, Dinah was a particular favorite of mine, especially since my Dad always bought a Chevrolet. The Burt Reynolds cougar escapade was a little outré for the times though, don't you think? Traveling down Nostalgia Lane, I have an especially soft spot for "God Bless America" sung by Kate Smith and her imposing bosom who had the good taste not to say MWAH. Dinah is forgiven since she was so ever perky.

    alexanderr 12:08 PM  

    i'm surprised at the complaints about RAT/RAM TCI/MCI. I'm likely a lot younger than most crossworders (and was quite proud of myself for remembering that MCI is/was a thing), but didn't think twice about fixing it with the answer that better fits the clue and theme. Rat traps, bear traps, tourist traps are all real and familiar things.

    i only ever fault the puzzle for DNF when a. the cluing is bad (i.e. wrong tense, incorrect definition) or b. two obscure proper names (or worse obscure abbreviations) cross each other and i have to finish the puzzle "qwerty" style which I hate. I sure as heck have never heard of ATRAPLUS but just pressed forward.

    also, perhaps because i'm young, "it's a trap!" is a very very very familiar phrase, courtesy of Admiral Ackbar. when i saw that and one "TRAP" string the rest filled itself. Google it gramps! made me think for a second that the super cute young girl that used to assist will had come back. :D

    Lewis 12:10 PM  

    Factoid: ORWELL's original title for "Nineteen Eighty-Four" was "The Last Man In Europe", but the publishers thought the final title better.

    Quotoid: "My candle burns at both ENDS; it will not last the night; but ah, my foes, and oh, my friends - it gives a lovely light!" -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

    Hartley70 12:16 PM  

    @alexanderr, wouldn't it be great if the revealer clue had somehow been a link to the Admiral and that clip. It would have put the puzzle over the top for me! There must be a way to do it for those of us who solve online.

    Anonymous 12:20 PM  

    This blog is getting less interesting all the time. Not because of Rex, who I think is great, but because the comments are getting so tedious. If Rex hates a puzzle, everyone is on his case as way to negative. If he sort of likes it, Luke today, he is way to easy. I would suggest that all comments be limited in size like Twitter.

    M and Also 12:27 PM  

    Had TCO/HOPSON. (It's a trap!)

    Really dug the 26-weeject lineup. fave was not TCO. Believe I will go with RAT, today, since it was a *-themer. Honrable mention to OTT, the otter that was also once caught in the bear trap, but got mostly away (yellin "Mwahhh!")

    USRDA was also formerly a mammal, but got pretty day-um badly mangled by a collapsing food pyramid. (It's a factoid!) So much for nutritional figs, I reckon.

    Fun solve, with entertainin bits of desperation here and there, thank U. Didn't catch a whole lot, in that last TRAP, btw. The BAR was too high. Almost got an ITALIAN, but it scampered off; leans funny, now, tho...

    Congrats to C.C. & Z., on the daily double


    ** gruntz ** (It's a trap!)

    Generic Solver 12:36 PM  

    People on this board don't seem to care much about fretless bass guitars and the sought-after "MWAH" tone, but since the word appeared again, I present you this, in case anyone is even remotely curious: Fretless Bass "Mwah" Tutorial

    Karen Munson 12:42 PM  

    CC Burnikel constructed today's LA Times puzzle. Any relation to Zhouqin?

    Happy Pencil 12:42 PM  

    I liked the puzzle, although I agree with those who've said it was too easy for a Wednesday. Also, I think it would have been great to have a fourth TRAP in there somewhere. Right now, there are trapped things running through the T, the R, and the A, but no fourth one running through the P. Not sure what that would be, exactly, but it would have provided a little extra symmetry to the puzzle.

    Anonymous 1:05 PM  

    Anon @ 12:20 it doesn't seem like you are familiar with the rules of Twitter. Or Luke.

    Anonymous 1:06 PM  

    CC and Zhouqin are one and the same.

    Anonymous 1:07 PM  

    Hey Karen @2:42: Was that a joke or did you just ignore the previous multiple comments about CC?

    Leapfinger 1:07 PM  

    It must have been easy; there were clues/entries that I never spotted during the solve. Howsomeever, I did make the same MCI mistake as @Rex, didn't bother me near as much. Yes, those TRAPs can be horrific: some animals actually chew off their own pough.

    Thought this one of the more enjoyable Burnikels, with few TRIBulations.


    Did anyone else think of Great Big Billy GOAT Gruff, going TRiP TRAP, TRiP TRAP over the troll-ey bridge?

    Also, I always enjoyed the word SATRAP, a word with so much plenipotentiality. Ditto with DIDO, so thanks @whoever it was linked White Flag the day the ships went down.

    It could be cute -- or not -- to have CAR t-bone AUTO, but it sure was an eyebrow-raiser here to notice ELI WEASEL. There OTT to be a LAO.

    After appreciating all the successful TRAPs, I was left wondering -- if a TOURIST is someone on a TOUR, what does that make of an ASSIST and an ASS?

    For now, that's all she ROTE. Happy Wednesday, and thankee all.

    Leapfinger 2:00 PM  

    @NCAPrez, a MWAH a moi?? ;^D

    @Gill, I was going to tease you with 'teasle', but (in a fit of caution) I checked first, and dang if the Google-wretch didn't ask me if I meant 'teasel'. I didn't think I did, but we seem to be in a transition state. Unless someone knows different[ly], I think it's like -er vs -or endings. It's all by ROTE.

    @Alias, I am not at all surprised that I wasn't alone in seeing the South American TRAPS. I checked, however, and 4A is only a single B.

    Which reminds me: @chefbea, on Monday you commented that the puzzle was rough, a tough solve. Considering Tuesday, that was pretty prescient, wasn't it?

    @Hartley, I don't know that she invented it, but Dinah Shore certainly brought MWAH into common parlance. I think she's beyond your each now. btw, 'perky' is to me what MWAH is to you. :)

    @Nancy, watch this space for a late response to your Reuben James/Weavers. Must run for now.

    Apologies for duplications.

    Aunt Sandy 2:11 PM  

    @Happy Pencil, au contraire. We have a rare TEAPOT TRAP running through the P of the last themer.

    @generic solver, am enjoying your Mwah tutorial.

    Nancy 2:47 PM  

    Oops! My Concise Oxford English Dictionary is from the 1950s, not the 1550s. Not even I am that old. Not even that scary British English teacher whom I mentioned in my earlier post was that old; she only SEEMED that way! Anyway, whew, glad I caught the error. I would have returned to this blog ere now, but I was out Xeroxing a Very Important Package to send to someone on this blog who ALSO remembers Dinah going MWAH. I am now off
    Post Office willing) to mail said package. I shall return in time, I hope, to see what Leapfinger has to say about the Weavers and the Reuben James, as promised. (Post office willing). My breath is bated.

    the redanman 2:57 PM  

    Sloppy mess in Texas, y'all ugh, I'm with Rex

    ArtO 2:58 PM  

    Guess there are no golfers chiming in.. The PGA National course in Florida designed by Jack Nicklaus (aka known as the Bear) has a very difficult three hole stretch (15, 16, 17) known as "the bear trap"). It's a stretch providing fair warning to all golfers, even those on the tour.

    Big question this week is whether the old Tiger shows up at The Masters.

    leah712 4:26 PM  

    Am I the only one who had trouble with the "Jack or jenny" clue? I looked it up, and they are indeed different varieties of asses, but this non-farm girl never heard of the many varieties of asses.

    Z 4:43 PM  

    @Gill I - I found this non-answer for you.

    @leah712 - I think it is that I can be a jack-ass at times but my wife can be a real jenny.

    Anonymous 5:38 PM  

    @RexPOrker-Your one trick pony has been spooked and he has backed into a proverbial trap. Mount that little fella and ride into the sunset. I beg of you.

    jae 5:50 PM  

    @Gill - Yes, today's LAT is more Wednesdayish, more fun, and timelier.

    foxaroni 5:53 PM  

    My brain just isn't clicking today. Why is an alley-oop pass an ASSIST?

    @Leapfinger--you missed an opportunity in the -OUGH word-plays. Shouldn't he have been a Billy Goat Grough? ;-)

    @Anonymous 5:38 pm--I totally disagree.

    Thomaso808 6:21 PM  

    @foxaroni an alley oop is made to a teammate to a point above and near the rim so that the teammate can easily (well, not always so easily) complete the play with a dunk. The dunker is credited with the field goal and the alley oop-er is credited with the ASSIST, a b-ball statistic that has been recognized for over 50 years.

    GILL I. 6:59 PM  

    Hi @Z...Thanks. I actually tried to find something on Google because despite reading tons of books I still can't remember how to spell easle. This one site said that if you're unsure, go with LE. Then there was something about words having stick and tails. Probably @Nancy's clear as mud reference. Oh, @Nancy, I was just yanking your chains. I'm old, very, very old and I remember very clearly watching what's her name on TV. I know because she dated that suave hunk Burt.....

    Anonymous 5:38 6:59 PM  

    @foxaroni-While I will admit that @porkers use of sarcasm to point out @Rex's foibles was SLIGHTLY amusing in the first post or two, it is now clear that @porker does not comprehend a word he reads.

    Every line from todays post by the @porker can be destroyed rather easily. Every line is factually incorrect. Rather than suffer through the entire thing let me just point out the most ridiculous line.

    @Porker-"I will point out the horrible fill, but for reasons unknown I forgive the horrible fill"

    @Parker-" Fill is subpar in far too many places, but it's a pretty complex theme, with a decent amount of wide open space to fill, so perhaps the list of not long enough to warrant much censure given the theme demands".

    Look at that. A very detailed reason as to why @Rex forgave the subpar fill today. You might even call it "reasons overtly known".

    Clark 8:30 PM  

    Anonymous Anonymous [7:56 AM] said...
    Maybe one of the classical music nerds can find us an OLDLATIN SONATA today?

    I will put forward on behalf of the classical music nerds some keyboard sonatas of Padre Antonio Soler. These should qualify as old latin sonatas.

    How I Got My Ex Husband Back 10:00 PM  

    Yay!! you cannot believe what this spell caster Dr Brave just did for me!!! Was this all a magic?? "This is totally a Easter miracle for me lol" My mouth are short of words. “I got a divorce from my husband when I was six months pregnant with my second child. We had only been married for a short time and had another child who was 1 year old. We had been arguing and quarreling nonstop since the day our first child was conceived, no love nor trust from him anymore so he divorced. And all these whiles, I have been trying all different means to get him back, I also tried some different spell casters from other countries, but none of them could bring Richard back to me. It was only Dr Brave who guaranteed me an urgent 48 hours spell casting, and he assure me that my husband will be with me before Easter day. I am writing to offer my thanks and deep gratitude to you for keeping your promises, and for using your gifted and great powers to bring him back today 2nd of April 2015.. I was thrilled to know that you are specialized in reuniting Lovers. I never thought, in my whole life, that I would be writing to thank someone for casting a love spell on my marriage, but that day has arrived! I have never been happier in my life, and I feel like all of my dreams has turned into reality now. Thank you, Dr Brave , for helping me through the worst times of my life, for being such a great spell caster, and for giving me a love spell that has brought me so much joy. If you doubt his ability, trust me. You should take a chance. It pays off in ways you could never even imagine, Contact him through his website: or his Email: . thank you so much sir (Mary Owen from UK)

    How I Got My Ex Husband Back 9:21 AM  

    Hello everyone, My name is Morgan Jackson, a citizen of USA; am 42 years of age..we got married for more than 11 years and have gotten two kids. thing were going well with us and we are always happy. until one day my husband started to behave in a way i could not understand, i was very confused by the way he treat me and the kids. later that month he did not come home again and he called me that he want a divorce, i asked him what have i done wrong to deserve this from him, all he was saying is that he want a divorce that he hate me and do not want to see me again in his life, i was mad and also frustrated do not know what to do,i was sick for more than 2 weeks because of the divorce. i love him so much he was everything to me without him my life is incomplete. i told my sister and she told me to contact a spell caster, i never believe in all this spell casting of a thing. i just want to try if something will come out of it. i contacted Dr Brave for the return of my husband to me, they told me that my husband have been taken by another woman, that she cast a spell on him that is why he hate me and also want us to divorce. then they told me that they have to cast a spell on him that will make him return to me and the kids, they casted the spell and after 1 week my husband called me and he told me that i should forgive him, he started to apologize on phone and said that he still live me that he did not know what happen to him that he left me. it was the spell that he Dr Brave casted on him that make him come back to me today,me and my family are now happy again today. thank you Dr Brave for what you have done for me i would have been nothing today if not for your great spell. i want you my friends who are passing through all this kind of love problem of getting back their husband, wife , or ex boyfriend and girlfriend to contact Dr Brave ,if you need his help you can contact him through his private mail: or you can contact him through his website and you will see that your problem will be solved without any delay.

    rondo 10:15 AM  

    I am surprised, miffed even, that @dk didn’t mention something about “bear trap”, since directly between his house and mine is what is now known as the bear trap for the dam at St. Croix Falls, where the water is funneled towards a certain location for generating electricity. But even more so, @dk lives in the house initially built for the keeper of Never’s Dam which is some 11 miles upstream and was once the largest wooden dam in the world. Never’s Dam also had the largest “bear trap” gate in the world which would only open occasionally to let floating logs through so as to prevent jams in the area where the current hydroelectric dam is and just further downstream. C’mon @dk. And let’s have a beer again sometime.

    Oh yeah, the puz. Veni, vidi, vici. No big deal. Hope MWAH does not become habit-forming.

    rondo 10:19 AM  

    And PENELOPE Cruz, yeah baby!

    Burma Shave 11:26 AM  


    I was smoking ONE STOGIE in the ORCHESTRAPIT
    listening to the BESTRAPALBUM, the TEMPO was shit.
    ITRIED to WEASEL out of hearing that crap,
    Please ASSIST me on out, now we know ITSATRAP.


    spacecraft 12:03 PM  

    I was afraid of this. DNF because of the WOD. So was it HOPSIN or HOPSoN? "Joins for a ride." Could be either; I tossed a "kern," as Ed Norton would say, and it came up O. Needless to say, that cable co. was unknowable. If OFL didn't know it, how should anybody else?

    This puzzle was way too chopped up; no fewer than 24 three-letter entries. Lots of wide-open spaces to fill?? What grid were YOU working, fearless one??

    Something else I was afraid of: the precedent was set on Monday, and now every constructor owns "MWAH." This is, per ORWELL, doubleplusungood.

    The theme is not sparkling, the fill horrid in spots. Sorry--I know this is a skilled, experienced constructor, but today she is Peppermint Patty: D-.

    11214: a five-card Charlie and a perfect 9!

    DMG 2:12 PM  

    Didn't get caught in the TCI trap, but came close. But it wasn't the in/on question for me. It was wanting ACCEDE to have two E's. Finally decided the right answer looked better than ACEEDE. So a by guess and by golly solve! Loved @GILL I's list of 3 E words. Never think to look for things like that, but enjoy other's discoverys of puzzle quirks.

    @space craft; That's 9 the really hard way. Now to see what I get.... win! Ohno,robot didn't like that, now I get letters!

    Ginger 2:28 PM  

    Well, I had a GO AT TCo/HOPSoN, and alas, a DNF. Incidentally, HOPSIN looks like an ingredient in beer.

    At first parse of the theme, I missed the 'T', and thought it was RAP albums.

    Amazing factoid about NYT & LAT constructor Burnikel, English is not her first language! I wonder if any of us could be so erudite in an adopted tongue. Thank You CC, enjoyed it.

    Anonymous 6:42 PM  

    Hey, Ginger, I liked your comment. Who woulda known. Also, some folks don't know the LA Times puzzle has improved exceptionally well over the last year. I do them both.

    Today's was easy/peasy and that's OK by me once in awhile. Usually Weds. are trickier. I've never heard of "hops on" but I have hopped in quite a few times.

    TCI was a guess but I've seen enough films where the rat gets done-in (Notice I didn't say done-on.

    I too thank Z.B. for a fun time.

    Ron Diego La Mesa, CA, the worlds 9,999th best solver of those with an IQ under 50 :)

    leftcoastTAM 8:02 PM  

    As a syndilander, I'm ambivalent about not being part of the real time repartee. It varies from witty and amusing to dull and repetitious--all on the same day, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But none of it inspires me enough to subscribe to the same-day edition and get into the mix. Nonetheless, I've come to like a lot of the posters and their posts. I don't expect that any or many of them will read this, but thanks to them anyway for adding to my enjoyment of the NYT puzzle.

    As for today's puzzle, I did know of TCI, but it took extra time to dredge up the correct spelling of Bryn MAWR. I thought the theme and revealer made it easy for a Wednesday.

    Teedmn 8:33 PM  

    @leftcoastTAM, I was where you are last September, loving the blog but ambivalent about subscribing. But I went for it 'cause $40 for a year of puzzles, plus the KenKen, Sudoku and other puzzles seemed reasonable at 11 cents a day. Then for five weeks I got to do both the real time and the Syndiland puzzles, which was fun.

    But I think you would be surprised how many of the regulars check back for new comments. I don't want to miss whoever @Rondo's "yeah, baby" of the day is, or @Burma Shaves' poems(?) :-), or @spacecraft, @rainforest, @RonDiego and you, so keep 'em coming in Syndi or join the "real time" solve, it's all good.

    leftcoastTAM 9:23 PM  

    Okay,@Teedmn, I agree. Thanks for the reply.

    Anonymous 8:35 PM  

    Hey, I just jumped back and checked out the comments by the Syndies of yesterday. I, too, enjoy Spracecraft, Rainforest, Rondo, DMG etc., etc. And now we have some new names. GREAT! And thanks for mentioning my name. Sometimes I feel like I'm writing into the void of outer space. I don't always agree with Spacecraft (except when he's dissing OFL) BUT I RESPECT HIS COMMENTS.

    Ron Diego, La Mesa, CA

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